The gum elastic bougie is a simple device that is used to assist in the management of the difficult intubation. It is not uncommon for a bougie to be re-used many times. This study investigated the incidence of microbial contamination of the bougies in one hospital. Potentially pathogenic organisms were identified both on the bougies and in their storage containers. This has implications for their cleaning and maintenance, and raises the question as to whether we should replace them with single-use, disposable devices.